The Bendi people live off the southern coast of China on the tropical island of Hainan, the smallest of China’s provinces. The 2010 census numbered them at about 78,000. They live in the central mountain highlands among the island’s abundant forests, many rivers and streams, and deep valleys. Their homes are boat-shaped houses made of bamboo and thatch. Until recently they relied on hunting and fishing for food. Their language is a Li dialect quite distinct and virtually unintelligible to other subgroups of the Li people.
The Bendi are mostly polytheists and animists, worshipping many gods and spirits, including their ancestors. According to their myths, each clan originated after the marriage of a woman and an animal. The animal most frequently worshipped is the snake.
There are no known Christians among the Bendi. No written, oral or visual gospel materials exist in their language. It is estimated that 81 percent of the Bendi have never heard the gospel. The remaining 19 percent have been exposed to the gospel but are not believers. There are no adherents to Christianity in any form.
Many Christians visit Hainan Island, known as the Asian Hawaii, to enjoy its beaches. Some even take tours to Bendi villages. They pay to see animistic culture, but they fail to recognize the spiritual darkness of these people made in God’s image.